Shiels' channel has always had an intensive focus on giving honest reviews of the latest equipment offerings from the major manufacturers in the industry. His testing process has evolved over the years to become increasingly thorough but has always felt honest and fair. Never one to mince words, Shiels will tell you in no uncertain terms if he feels a new driver, iron-set, or putter is worth your time and hard-earned money. With that reputation and experience, when Shiels posts an essay questioning the "value to performance" balance of nearly all of the current major golf equipment on the market, and it's the resulting potential impact on growing the game, it's time to pay attention:
Now, I think we can all see where he's going with his discounted £70 starter set. The bigger question remains and it's one we've discussed here many times before. With the regulating bodies preventing the performance of clubs from really changing much on a year-to-year basis, what is the real benefit of all of this R&D and resulting price increases for the average player?
To my mind, and a point Mr. Shiels does mention, is fitting. With the products being designed and engineered from the beginning with adjustability and customization in mind, the average golfer can find benefits. Working with a club fitter, or, dare I say, being willing to experiment themselves on the range, most golfers can benefit from tuning in their equipment to maximize performance giving their particular ability.
Is that benefit worth nearly doubling the price of a driver over just 10-years? Everyone will have to make that choice themselves based on their own economic reality. It's certainly easier to absorb the impact of a $500 driver if that's the only club you're upgrading this season. If you're just getting into golf, or maybe rediscovering the game and need to replace an old set, that cost of entry is pretty painful if not impossible for many to overcome.
My real concern with the increases in pricing isn't so much about limiting new people from taking up the game. Beginner sets, used sets, even hand-me-down sets have always been popular points of entry for folks interested in trying the game on for size. It's the pricing out of the game of current enthusiasts that I see as a rising issue. With a shrinking middle-class, these premium prices are taking away the ability of many golfers from keeping up with the modern game. Or, at least, making them feel like the game is passing them by.
That said, golf has always been an expensive sport. There has always been premium equipment being offered with many having to look as cheaper and, yes, often poorer performing equipment in order to participate. It's just a shame that with this rapid inflation of top-end equipment prices, so many current enthusiasts are finding themselves having to move down-market for their next set of clubs or simply not upgrade at all.